Today, as Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson was acquitted of all criminal charges against him in the death of Freddie Gray, we stand with the many Baltimoreans who fear there may be no individualized justice or accountability for Mr. Gray's death.
The court's criminal trial - bound as it was to the stricter requirement of finding proof beyond a reasonable doubt - is no consolation to Marylanders who expect that someone will be held accountable for a man's death in custody. But more aggravating still is the failure of yet another system of accountability -the internal police department's disciplinary system, which should not only punish officer misconduct, but also deter egregious failures like those that resulted in Mr. Gray's death.
We know this: Baltimore police officers failed to seatbelt Mr. Gray, in violation of clear department policy, and as a result he is dead. Why haven't all the officers been found administratively responsible for violating police department policies? A provision in the police union's collective bargaining agreement says officers facing criminal charges cannot be disciplined until after the charges are resolved. That provision needlessly adds fuel to the fear of many Baltimoreans that there will be no accountability for the officers involved in Mr. Gray's killing.
Again and again, Baltimore leaders have urged communities to "be patient." But two things are immediately needed: 1) Baltimore leaders must step up and champion reform of the internal police discipline process to make it more transparent and give civilians a meaningful role in the disciplinary process, and 2) City officials negotiating the collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police should reject FOP efforts to shield officers from consequences for wrongdoing.
The time is now.